Kent is a historic county in southeast England that has long been touted as the “Garden of England.” With its pleasant weather, fertile farmlands, and extensive hops production, it’s easy to see why. Landscapes such as the Kent Downs and the White Cliffs of Dover draw international fame, but the real treasures are its picturesque villages across the county.

    Many of Kent’s charming hamlets can be reached within 2 hours from London and offer respite from city life. Each village has unique characteristics and sights include medieval castles, Tudor homes, and walled gardens. Beautiful nature is always on your doorstep, and some of Kent’s famous trails link separate communities. Here are just a few of the photogenic villages to explore in Kent on a road trip.

    1

    Aylesford

    Take photos of the medieval bridge crossing the River Medway

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    Aylesford sits along the River Medway roughly 4 miles northwest of Maidstone. The symbolic arch bridge is believed to have been constructed in the 14th century and still used today by pedestrians. Many of the village’s oldest buildings are by the Medway, including the Aylesford St Peter & St Pauls Church. Parts of the church date to the 11th century, but there was likely a religious site on the grounds centuries earlier.

    Originally founded in 1242, the restored Carmelite Friary provides travellers with a peaceful retreat with its picnic areas, pottery workshops, and tea rooms. Just a 20-minute walk from the village, Cobtree Manor Park features wooded trails, green spaces, and playgrounds for nature lovers of all ages.

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    2

    Chilham

    Tour the grounds of an extravagant castle and its gardens

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    Chilham overlooks the valley of the River Stour and features a medieval market square. Timber-framed Tudor houses surround the square, and the majestic Chilham Castle provides incredible views of the Kent countryside. The private estate opens its beautiful gardens for public viewing every Tuesday and Thursday during the summer. St. Mary’s Church sits on the opposite side of the square and has memorials to prominent Chilham families.

    The village also serves as a fantastic base to explore the gorgeous Kent Downs. Hikers and cyclists have numerous trails to choose from, each boasting remarkable views of ancient woodlands, native wildlife, and wide-open grasslands. Those looking for a long-distance journey have easy access to both the Pilgrims’ Way and North Downs Way.

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    3

    Broadstairs

    Lounge on the sandy shores of the Isle of Thanet’s crown jewel

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    Famed for its white cliffs and noted affection from author Charles Dickens, Broadstairs is one of Kent's famous seaside resorts. Situated on the Isle of Thanet, the coastal town is only a 2-hour journey for Londoners. Blue Flag beaches line the shores, and art galleries, museums, restaurants, and bars adorn the vibrant streets.

    With its winding promenade and cosy beach huts, Viking Bay is a delightful place to start your holiday. Stroll to Botany Bay for a closer glimpse of the chalk cliffs or a refreshing swim. David Copperfield readers can visit the Dickens House Museum to view the novelist’s inspiration for Betsey Trotwood’s home or attend the Broadstairs Dickens Festival for a Victorian-era beach party.

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    4

    Wye

    Hike or bike the rolling hills of the Kent Downs

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    A 15-minute train ride from Canterbury transports you to the hiking paradise of Wye. The historic village rests along the hillside of the Kent Downs and offers nature trails that showcase the area’s remarkable beauty. Wildlife echoes at Devils Kneading Trough, and you’ll find rare flora species on the Wye Downs. The Great Stour Way runs along the river and is part of the National Cycle Network.

    Wye piques taste buds with a variety of eateries and places to shop for local produce. The Wye Farmers’ Market runs biweekly, and vendors sell items such as organic meat, cheeses, cakes, and jams. Stop by the Perry Court Farm for juicy apples or taste delicious jams and preserves at the Wooden Spoon Preserving Company.

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    5

    Maidstone

    Cruise on a scenic lake and explore woodland paths

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    Maidstone is the historic county town of Kent and is around 40 miles southeast of London. The town acts as a recreational hub in Kent and hosts vibrant events throughout the year. Cycling and walking routes are popular outlets for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the verdant landscape. Boat rides along the River Medway and fishing excursions in Mote Park offer relaxing afternoons on the water.

    Kent Life hosts the Hops ‘n’ Harvest Beer Festival and presents Britain’s last remaining coal-fired Oast House. The nostalgic farm breeds farm animals and entertains guests with tractor rides, live shows, and a pottery studio. Leeds Castle sits a few miles from Maidstone, and its romantic lakeside setting features enchanting gardens, falconry shows, and mini-golf.

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    6

    Chiddingstone

    Wander around a charming Tudor village and view wildlife

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    Chiddingstone sits within the Sevenoaks District and is among the finest examples of a Tudor village. Its lone street charms with historic architecture, old-fashioned pubs, and a tea room. Continue down the street to find the mysterious chiding stone and the folklore surrounding it. The nearby Chiddingstone Castle hosts elaborate weddings and houses artefacts from a myriad of cultures.

    Wildlife is abundant just outside the village, and Bough Beech Reservoir is a paradise for birdwatchers. Around a 35-minute drive from Chiddingstone, Knole Park is an excellent spot to watch deer roaming the woodlands. Head to One Tree Hill for a breathtaking panorama of the Kent countryside and search for a variety of plant and animal species.

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    7

    Elham

    Go for a long-distance hike on the Kent Downs

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    Roughly 12 miles west of Dover, Elham offers an enchanting location inside the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Within the village, timber-framed Tudor houses and St Mary the Virgin Church highlight its history and heritage. A local farm shop, biweekly farmers’ markets, authentic pubs, and the Elham Valley Vineyard give you a taste of the region’s produce.

    The village rests along the slopes of its namesake valley and provides a convenient base for hikers. Walking paths from Elham venture to beautiful hills, chalk grasslands, and verdant woodlands across the valley. The 22.5-mile Elham Valley Way rewards vigorous trekkers with many of the most stunning vistas anywhere in the Kent countryside.

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    Foto: Alfred Gay (CC BY-SA 3.0) retusjert

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    Penshurst

    Visit a medieval manor house and cycle through the Kent countryside

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    Penshurst in the Sevenoaks District features extravagant properties and beautiful stretches of nature. Promoted as the grandest manor house in England, Penshurst Palace & Gardens earns the spotlight among visitors. Once used by Henry VIII as a hunting lodge, the house still possesses marvellous furnishings dating from the 14th century. The interior also includes magnificent paintings and staterooms, but the Elizabethan garden steals the show.

    Haysden Water is a popular outdoor recreation space used for hiking, kayaking, sailing, and wildlife viewing. The nearby Barden Lake draws anglers, dog walkers, and has a playground for children. For bikers, the Tudor Cycle Trail connects Penshurst Place to Tonbridge Castle and follows the River Medway for a peaceful ride. 

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    9

    Godmersham

    Visit the residence once owned by Jane Austen’s brother

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    Godmersham lies within the Ashford District nearly 10 miles southwest of Canterbury. The rural village gained notoriety for its frequent visits by acclaimed novelist Jane Austen. Her brother owned what is now Godmersham Park, and she would often come to visit him and the area. Although the residence is closed to the public, a footpath gives you views of the property. You can walk through the outdoor gardens by booking a pre-arranged visit for a fee.

    Just outside the village, King’s Wood lures nature lovers with its bluebell-carpeted woodlands. The 1,500-acre forest was once a royal hunting area that now has well-maintained walking and biking paths. St Lawrence the Martyr Church sits adjacent to the Great Stour River, and nearby trees provide shade on balmy days.

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    10

    Biddenden

    Sample local wines and go for a walk through vineyards

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    Biddenden shed its iron and clothmaking roots and now entices wine aficionados visiting Kent. For a local wine-tasting holiday, Biddenden can be reached by car in about 90 minutes from London. Biddenden Vineyards offers a multitude of wines, ciders, and apple juices, and you can also sample Kentish cheese, honey, jams, and local produce. The Hush Heath Estate is another worthy wine stop where you’re able to walk through the vineyards during your tasting.

    One of Kent’s most spectacular gardens, Sissinghurst Castle Garden sits a few miles from the village. The flowers are incredible at their peak bloom, walking paths lead to serene lakes, and the adjacent castle tower gives you a bird’s-eye view of the landscape.

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    Daniel Grenier | Bidragsyter

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